Pharma’s Reputation in Decline

January 14, 2013
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

The pharmaceutical industry does not have a good reputation among patients and consumers.

The pharmaceutical industry does not have a good reputation among patients and consumers.

This may seem like an unfair situation given the fact that medicines produced by the pharmaceutical industry save millions of lives each year, but humans are far better at focusing on the bad things than the good, and recent recalls, controversial pricing policies and lawsuits have definitely given people reason to focus on the negative side of the pharmaceutical industry.

According to a recently conducted global survey, the overall reputation of the pharma industry declined even more in 2012. The survey, conducted by PatientView, asked 600 patient groups from 56 countries about their views on the corporate reputation of the world’s top 29 pharma companies.

The results show that pharma has some work to do to win back patient trust. Just 34% of the 600 respondents said that multinational pharma companies had an “Excellent” or “Good” reputation during 2012, down from 43% in a similar survey in 2011. Forty percent said the industry’s reputation had declined in 2012.

Respondents indicated several reasons for the overall decline:

  • inappropriate marketing of drugs

  • perceived lack of transparency, especially in reporting results from clinical trials

  • some drug prices are still unaffordable to many patients and payers, giving the general impression that profit comes before patients.

Pharma is always going to struggle with its reputation. Drug development is expensive; far more expensive than many average patients and consumers will ever understand. As well as recouping the enormous costs of drugs that succeed, companies are also looking to make up for all the drugs that fail. In addition, the rise of the internet in the past few decades has sensationalised many pharma-related lawsuits, which will make patients more distrustful of the industry.

However, surveys like this are useful because they show that the industry has to make an effort to improve its reputation. Six key indicators influencing corporate reputation that were examined n the survey were  patient-centredness, patient information, patient safety, useful products, transparency and integrity, so these represent good areas for companies seeking to boost their reputation to scrutinise.

Ending on a positive note, the top pharma performers in 2012 in terms of their corporate reputation were Lundbeck, Gilead Sciences, Novartis, Janssen, Pfizer, Abbott, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Lily and GlaxoSmithKline